It felt like they took forever to get there, but the Yukon River’s summer chum salmon arrived in enough numbers for the processor in Emmonak to gear up for its first commercial opening of the summer.
Last week, Kwik’Pak Fisheries Manager Jack Schultheis was looking at an empty plant and no fish. On Wednesday afternoon, gillnets will go in for their first 8-hour commercial opening of the summer, and the crew at the processor is ready to clean and pack fish. The commercial chum fishery is one of the few sources of cash for communities on the lower Yukon River. Among other things, it provides much needed gas money for subsistence activities like berry picking and fall hunting.
Up until recently, the picture for this summer's fishery was gloomy. Only around 65,000 chums had been counted passing the sonar at Pilot Station. Now more than 500,000 have made it by, and the fishery is back in business. There’s a lot of catching up to do, though, as this is usually the midpoint of the Yukon’s summer chum run. The numbers released by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game indicate that as of June 30, 570,564 summer chums have passed the Pilot Station sonar, which is below the historical median of 1,093,691 fish.
The Yukon’s second 8-hour commercial chum opening starts at 4 p.m. on the Fourth of July, followed by a 6-hour opening starting at 6 p.m. on Friday, July 5.
Managers want to remind fishermen not to target chums headed to the Andreafsky River to spawn.
Yukon kings caught in the commercial openers cannot be sold.